If the recent Canadian federal election has left some of us wondering what the heck we ever evolved from, The Nature of Things has some answers.
This Friday, Oct. 25, the long-running series takes a look at “First Animals,” the strange creatures that emerged from ancient seas over half a billion years ago.
Canadians, it turns out, don’t have to look far to find evidence of these mysterious creatures. The answers lie in fossils locked in shale deposits that scientists have been chipping away at for the past 100 years in the Rocky Mountain range in British Columbia’s Kootenay National Park.
Hosting the hour is Dr. Maydianne Andrade, a University of Toronto evolutionary biologist and spider specialist. Her spidey senses must have been tingling as she split rocks with paleontologist Jean-Bernard Caron and his team from the Royal Ontario Museum. As they cracked through layers of shale rock, they discover the fossils of critters dating back 500 million years, including one weird spaceship-like fossil with a mouth that looks like, as one scientist puts it, ” a pineapple slice filled with teeth.”
During the course of the hour, artists working with scientists render concepts of what these ancient creatures could have looked like based on the fossil finds.
These creatures, it is believed, lived at the bottom of the Cambrian Sea where they were trapped hundreds of millions of years ago in mud slides.
Even older fossils are investigated on the east coast of Canada in Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, where evidence of plant-like beasties have emerged. These have no eyes, guts or limbs, but there are signs of muscles.
Someday, scientists will find a fossil of me in Brampton with plenty of guts but no evidence of muscles. But I digress.
Dr. Andrade does a good job of radiating enthusiasm for these discoveries, comparing the split shale findings to “a goodie bag — you never know what you’re going to find.”
Among the fossils found in the Kootenay region is that of a metaspriginna, a fish-like animal bearing the first signs of a backbone. Clearly, this was long before politicians began campaigning in that region.
Okay, so my jokes date back even further than these fossils. The main thing is, we can all learn where we come from by watching “First Animals” Friday on CBC’s The Nature of Things, or watch it online at cbc.ca/watch and on the CBC app .